The generation of the GDR. Economists at the Humboldt University of Berlin caught between loyalty and relevance

The German Democratic Republic (GDR) was in existence for 41 years. A single generation spent its whole professional life there – namely those born in the early 1930s who carried this state’s hopes. With Karl Mannheim’s notion of generations as a unit in the sociology of knowledge in mind, this article describes this generation’s typical experiences from the point of view of a particularly telling group: economists at the Humboldt University of Berlin. I present their socialization in Nazi Germany, their formative years in the aftermath of the Second World War that led to their choice of a politically driven profession, their studies during the first years of the GDR, when Stalinism was still the dominating dogma, and their commitment to a state career when writing their dissertations and habilitations. Ready to shoulder Honecker’s regime, their daily lives as professors were characterized by continuing attempts to reform teaching and research. In 1989 the ultimate reform transpired, and it encompassed the end of the state as well as of their professional careers. This narrative historicizes, on an experiential level, a tension often noted in GDR research, that between the ideological and productive functions of knowledge in socialism, that is, between loyalty and relevance.

Ce contenu a été mis à jour le 31 octobre 2019 à 15 h 46 min.